Chatting with @Daniel_Y the other week got me thinking on supply chain issues and how small builders can address them in ways that the larger bike industry can’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about that as I’ve talked to bike shop owners over the past few months. They pretty universally had a similar narrative:
- Bike sales boomed in the pandemic
- Supply became hard to get ahold of (delayed, cancelled, etc)
- When orders began to be fulfilled, the boom was waning
- Now they’re sitting on excess inventory, unable to move it
- Manufacturers are in a similar spot and are undercutting shops on pricing
This tracks with the “Beer Distribution Game” which is a thought experiment to examine the pitfalls of supply-chain coordination and the implications of under- or over-ordering product.
All this seems to have led to a general distrust/dissatisfaction with the larger bike frame & bike component manufacturers and distributors. I see this pain point as a real opportunity for small-time frame builders. By running production closer to the end user and with less overhead, a builder could help a local bike shop stay lean on their inventory and adapt to the changing demands of the market. The value in reducing inventory is not immediately apparent, but I think it could be substantial.
I’m not sure if this thought is relevant or revelatory, but I think it’s worth examining the value that a local manufacturer can provide outside of the usual values of creating something bespoke, custom, or intrinsically unique.
I’d love to hear more thoughts about what value you think that small, independent fabricators can provide their local communities!